They wannabe senators again

No paupers despite break from politics

Third of Four Parts

THEY HAD been out of Congress for the last three years or more, but the nine former legislators who are among the 33 senatorial candidates in the upcoming elections were most probably far from turning into paupers because of any lack of work.

Former Las Piñas City Rep. Cynthia Villar, for instance, could still count on her family’s collection of real-estate businesses. Former Senator Richard Gordon, who is best known for his work with the Red Cross, owns shares of stock in some of the country’s largest corporations, among them San Miguel Corp., Jollibee Foods Corp., Meralco, Filinvest, Philex Mining Corp., Lepanto Consolidated, and Petron Corp. Former Senator Ma. Ana Consuelo ‘Jamby’ A.S. Madrigal is a shipping heiress who also has interests in a holding firm, an insurance company, and a real estate lessor.

Even former party-list representative Ana Theresia ‘Risa’ Hontiveros-Baraquel is a partner in Planet Dive, a resort in Mabini, Batangas, according to her 2009 Statement of Assets, Liabilities, and Net Worth (SALN) while another ex-party list representative, Hans Christian Señeres, is a certified financial planner.

When they first assumed seats in Congress, both Hontiveros-Baraquel (Akbayan) and Señeres (Buhay Hayaang Yumabong or Buhay) could also be considered to be quite comfortable financially, if not well-off. That tempered description is only because they were surrounded by colleagues whose net worth ran in the seven digits upward, based on the latest of their SALNs that PCIJ has on hand. As of 2009, Hontiveros-Baraquel had a net worth of P4.9 million and Señeres P7.4 million. (Both party-list representatives missed being in Congress with comebacking senator Ernesto M. Maceda, who first served as legislator in the early 1970s, and whose most recent turn at the Senate ended in 1997, when he had a recorded wealth of P7.6 million.)

Poorer while in office

Hontiveros-Baraquel and Señeres, however, have something in common with two of the richest of the nine ex-legislators now vying for Senate seats: a drop in their net worth during their years in Congress.

In the case of Cynthia Villar, the decline was nearly P200 million less her 2006 net worth, which reached P1.05 billion. By 2011, based on the SALN her husband Senator Manuel ‘Manny’ B. Villar Jr. filed, her net worth was down to P854.2 million, the decrease due largely to a decline in the value of the couple’s personal properties. Nevertheless, Villar remains the wealthiest among the former lawmakers-turned senatorial candidates.

Similarly, Madrigal’s wealth dipped a little to 145.6 million in 2009, from P146.5 million in 2007, because of an increase in her liabilities.

Former Senator Ramon ‘Jun’ B. Magsaysay Jr.’s net worth, meanwhile, also dropped in 2005, falling to P150.8 million from P153.6 million in the previous year. In general, however, Magsaysay’s net worth rose steadily during his years in the Senate, from 1995 to 2006.

As of his 2006 SALN, the latest available on file of the PCIJ, Magsaysay’s net worth stood at P162.3 million.

Richer out of power

Then there are the likes of former Senator Gordon and former Bukidnon representative Juan Miguel ‘Migs’ F. Zubiri, whose wealth generally rose while they were in the legislature.

From P23.6 million when he was first elected as senator in 2004, Gordon’s net worth stood at about P27 million to P28 million as of his 2009 annual declaration. Three-term congressman Zubiri, for his part, had P11.4 million when he first got elected at the House of Representatives. By the time Zubiri resigned from his Senate seat to give way to rival Aquilino Martin ‘Koko’ L. Pimentel III, his last recorded net worth was at P41.2 million.

PCIJ, however, has been unable to track the net worth of former Abakada Guro Party List Representative Samson S. Alcantara who replaced Jonathan A. de la Cruz as the group’s representative in January 2010. The Center has only Alcantara’s 2009 SALN, in which he declared a net worth of P27.6 million.

Except for Señeres, all these former lawmakers declared business interests and financial connections in the SALNs obtained by PCIJ. But records from the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) also show that at least four candidates in the group have connections in businesses and foundations that were not declared in their SALNs.

For instance, the 2004, 2005, and 2006 general information sheets (GIS) submitted by LMC Dev. Corp. to the SEC lists a Ramon B. Magsaysay Jr. as its incorporator, board member, and stockholder. The documents list the same tax identification number (TIN) that former Senator Magsaysay declared in his SALNs. But LMC, a real estate company registered in 1981, was not listed in Magsaysay’s 2004, 2005, and 2006 SALNs. In 2006, he declared only that he was a stockholder of Asia Vision Cable Holdings, Inc., RMJ Development Corp., Colorview CATV, Inc., and Quezon CATV, Inc.

A Cynthia A. Villar, meanwhile, was listed as incorporator and board member of the Sipag at Tiyaga Foundation Phils. Inc., Villar Foundation Inc., and Gourmet Garage Inc. in their respective 2009 GIS. Villar, however, did not declare these entities in her 2009 SALN. The SEC documents list the same TIN that Villar provided in her SALNs.

SEC records also show that a Juan Miguel F. Zubiri is connected to at least three entities: the Congressional Biking Society, Inc. according to its 2002 primary license, Phil. Deer Foundation, Inc. in its 2008 GIS, and The Exodar Inc., in its 2008 articles of incorporation. The SEC papers also bear the same TIN that is listed in Zubiri’s SALNs, but these were not declared in his 2002 and 2008 SALNs.

According to SEC, a Richard J. Gordon is connected to the Victories of the Revolution Foundation Inc. and the Philippine-India Parliamentarians Friendship Association Inc. based on their respective 2006 articles of incorporation. These entities were not listed in Gordon’s 2006 SALN.

Big, deep pockets?

In any case, except for the party-list representatives, these former lawmakers apparently had enough money in their pockets to manage to run campaigns without relying on donations.

For instance, the Statements of Election Contributions and Expenditures (SECE) that Villar and Zubiri had submitted when they ran for a seat in the House of Representatives show that they did not receive a single peso from donors. Both lawmakers had paid for their campaign expenses using their personal funds.

When Zubiri ran for senator in 2007, he was able to raise P67.5 million in donations. Still, he said he paid P21.7 million out of his total expenses of P89.2 million.

In the 2004 polls, Gordon, Maceda, and Madrigal also opened their owned wallets and spent P575,000, P27.9 million, and P4.8 million, respectively, for their campaigns. Madrigal also shouldered P55.2 million of her campaign expenses when she ran for president in 2010.

As for Magsaysay, his 2001 SECE indicates that he received P20.2 million in contributions, more than half of which or P11.7 million came from his personal fund.

PCIJ has no file of Abakada Guro’s 2007 SECE, but its 2010 SECE shows that the party did not receive any donation and spent P47,038 using the party’s own funds.

The SECEs of Hontiveros-Baraquel’s Akbayan and Señeres’s Buhay Party List show excess (if modest) donations, though. In 2004, Akbayan received P5.04 million and spent P4.9 million, leaving P41,167 of unused funds. Buhay, meanwhile, got extra funds worth P1,203 in the 2007 elections and P346 in the 2004 elections.

Yet for sure, most of these nine senatorial candidates have also been able to depend on political networks during elections, with many of them gaining such connections through blood ties. One stark example is Magsaysay who comes from a well-established political family. He is the namesake of the late president Ramon F. Magsaysay. His uncle, Genaro F. Magsaysay, also served as senator in the 1970s. The late Rep. Antonio M. Diaz of Zambales is his cousin.

The 7 relatives of Jun

In the 2013 elections, Magsaysay has at least seven relatives running in various positions. This includes his niece-in-law, Ma. Milagros ‘Mitos’ Magsaysay, who is also vying for a seat in the Senate, and his cousin Eulogio R. Magsaysay who is running as representative of party-list group Alliance of Volunteer Educators (AVE).

Villar’s political roots, meanwhile, can be traced to Las Piñas City, which has had its congressman and mayor from the Aguilar-Villar clan for the last several years. Cynthia Villar is the wife of Senator Manny Villar, who also spent some years in the Lower House, and mother of Rep. Mark A. Villar. Las Piñas Mayor Vergel A. Aguilar is the brother of Cynthia.

Gordon’s political connections are entrenched in Olongapo City. Both his wife and brother have had their turns as city mayor there, as has Gordon himself. At least three of his cousins, a nephew, a sister-in-law, and a daughter-in-law have served in various capacities as elective and appointive officials.

In Bukidnon, Zubiri’s father Jose Ma. Jr. and brother Jose Ma. III are running to get re-elected as the province’s governor and congressman, respectively, in the 2013 elections. His cousin Ignacio is also running for mayor of Malaybalay City.

In the case of Hontiveros-Baraquel, her connections in government spring from party-list Akbayan, which has had members elected or appointed government posts, among them Rep. Walden Bello, National Anti-Poverty Commission Secretary Joel Rocamora, Commission on Human Rights Chairperson Loretta Ann Rosales, and presidential political adviser Ronald Llamas.

Señeres, for his part, is the son of former ambassador Roy Señeres. By being part of Buhay, he is likely to have connections as with such familiar names in business and politics such as William Tieng, Ricky Razon, Eric Tagle, and Joseph Cua, all of whom are listed as donors in documents submitted by the party-list organization to the Commission on Elections (Comelec). — PCIJ, May 2013